I am using a technique that was described in The Teaching Professor
publication a couple of years ago.  It is called the "Dear Professor"
letter, except that I am having my students use email.  It is basically a
journaling concept, where the student is asked to do cognitive and affective
reflections relating to the course work and course environment.

I have implemented it by structuring six Dear Professor emails throughout
the semester, each worth 15 points.  I prepare questions that students are
to respond to.   I email these questions to the students one week before
their response is due.  If you are interested in seeing the ones I have done
to date, I've attached them to this email.

I am very pleased with the depth of the students' responses.  They are
taking time to thoughtfully and carefully respond.   The students have
indicated in their emails and in class how much they enjoy these and how
beneficial they are.  They share information I would not gain otherwise,
that allows me to evaluate their work, their learning readiness, and other
factors that can affect their performance in my and other classes.  Often,
the students have had additional questions or concerns that they add to the
email.  I respond to each email, which does take quite a bit of time, as you
know.  But there is a wonderfully different quality to this process because
of the immediacy of email, as compared to print journals.  Many of the
students provide more detail and glimpses into their confidences and
anxieties.  They freely provide examples to help me understand their
comments.  I believe I am more connected to the students, and the students'
interactions with me in and out of the classroom are demonstrate they are
more connected to the class and me than I've experience in previous
semesters.   I have been able to adapt my teaching methods and content based
on information from the D.P's.

This increases my work load quite a bit, but I will continue to use this
technique in future classes as one form of ongoing assessment.

Carol Rosenthal, Assistant Director
Academic Resource Center
Utah State University
0120 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT  84322-0120
(435) 797-4027   FAX (435) 797-1154
[log in to unmask]

Carol Rosenthal, Assistant Director
Academic Resource Center
Utah State University
0120 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT  84322-0120
(435) 797-4027   FAX (435) 797-1154
[log in to unmask]
----- Original Message -----
From: "Sharon Hagy" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, October 09, 2000 10:55 AM
Subject: Re: Alternative/unique student assessments

> Stephen Brookfield (and others) talk about having students keep learning
> journals, in which they reflect on and record their own learning process
> throughout the course.
> I have never tried to have students keep strictly "learning journals."
> However, working with beginning and high-beginning ESL students, I do have
> them write in journals at the beginning of nearly every class period.  I
> respond to their writings once a week, both to model correct grammar and
> spelling, and to understand them as people and as learners.  They often
> write about personal experiences, and I ask them simple questions related
> their learning process.  Especially if you have students for longer than
> weeks, you can really form a nice relationship with them through the
> journal.
> Sharon Hagy
> Basic Skills Specialist
> Mt. Hood Community College
> (503) 491-7590
> [log in to unmask]
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: ted panitz [SMTP:[log in to unmask]]
> > Sent: Friday, October 06, 2000 7:19 PM
> > To:   [log in to unmask]
> > Subject:      Alternative/unique student assessments
> >
> > Hi Listers,
> >
> >      I would like to initiate a discussion around the question:
> >
> > "Do you use unique or interesting assessment techniques in your classes
> > which help you get to know your students on a more personal level as
> > well as evaluate their progress in the course?"
> >
> >     I am interested primarily in student centered type classes, which
> > include a wide variety of teaching/learning paradigms such as
> > cooperative and collaborative learning, problem or project based
> > learning, inquiry based learning, etc.  I would also like to hear from
> > people who use other approaches such as lecture or lecture discussion.
> >
> >      Many if not all of us are familiar with Cross and Angelo's work on
> > using alternative assessment techniques before during and at the end of
> > classes in order to obtain information from and about our students. Some
> >
> > questions they address, in the One Minute Paper for example, are what
> > the students think they have learned during a class and what questions
> > students may have after a class is completed. I see these as being more
> > content driven. What I am looking for here are approaches that are more
> > personal and/or give you a better understanding of the nature of your
> > students, their approach to learning, learning style, level of
> > motivation,
> > outside influences on their lives, etc.
> >
> > Regards,
> > Ted
> >
> > ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
> > Here are some of my experiences and observations about using alternative
> >
> > assessment techniques in cooperative learning classes.
> >
> >     Cooperative learning activities which I use in my classes afford me
> > with unique opportunities to observe students interacting, explaining
> > their theories, arguing for a particular point of view, helping their
> > peers and being helped. Only a few minutes of observation during a class
> >
> > period can provide significant insights into my student's ability and
> > performance level.
> >
> > In using observations I look for a hierarchy of abilities similar to
> > Bloom's taxonomy.
> >
> > 1. Do they know the basics- definitions, formulas, vocabulary, rules,
> > and procedures needed to analyze and solve problems?
> > 2. Can they apply their knowledge to similar problems or questions?
> > 3. Are they able to extend their reasoning and analysis to new
> > situations or problems?
> > 4. Can they create their own problem statements or questions based upon
> > the underlying concepts being studied?
> > 5. Can they explain their reasoning in writing or verbally to their
> > peers?
> >
> >      By asking each of these questions I can identify the stage of
> > development the student has reached and make recommendations as to what
> > material and procedures the student might apply to help him/her
> > understand the concepts better.
> >
> > There are many benefits to observing students at work in groups with
> > their peers.
> > 1. You can observe a student working through a complete problem or
> > assignment versus seeing only the final product (exam or paper).
> > 2. You can observe their reasoning techniques, level of basic knowledge,
> >
> > and concept attainment.
> > 3. You can identify their dominant learning style by observing whether
> > their presentation in pairs or groups is oral, visual or kinesthetic.
> > This information can be invaluable if you help tutor the student in or
> > out of class. (As an aside, cooperative learning lends itself to using
> > multiple learning style presentations throughout each class).
> > 4. Brief, specific interventions are possible by the teacher or other
> > students to provide help and/or guidance for students having
> > difficulties. I try to make these in the form of guiding questions
> > versus statements of fact or direction. This is very effective but can
> > lead to frustration on the students' part until they get used to a
> > questioning response from the teacher instead of a mini lecture.
> > 5. Informal conversations take place between individuals, groups and the
> >
> > teacher, which help highlight problem areas the entire class may be
> > having. These discussions also help create class environment, which is
> > more personal, as students get to know the teacher and the teacher
> > learns about the students.
> > 6. Shy students will participate more with their peers in small groups
> > than in a large class and they too can be observed. It is very helpful
> > to identify students who are shy in order to encourage their
> > participation in non threatening ways.
> >
> >     By the time a test is given I know exactly which students will
> > perform well and which will not. I often suggest that students postpone
> > taking an exam if I have observed that they are not ready. I use a
> > mastery testing method, which allows for this approach. This requires an
> >
> > extra effort on my part to have multiple tests available. I find that
> > the positive effect of encouraging students to take tests when they are
> > truly ready far outweighs potential problems. The one caveat here is
> > that the students must keep up with the course if they want to finish in
> >
> > one semester. Their options are to repeat the course or take an
> > incomplete and finish during the next semester if they do not finish on
> > time. On occasion I have passed students on exams who have such high
> > test anxiety that they cannot function under exam conditions but work
> > perfectly well outside of the pressure of the exam. By relying on
> > observations I can have the student demonstrate in their groups how to
> > answer test questions or I can invite them to my office to have them
> > show me their solutions one on one instead of in a public setting. I can
> >
> > have them make oral presentations in class or out of class, in their
> > groups or on the board before the whole class at their discretion. This
> > has the effect of relaxing students when they see they are not going to
> > fail since they have several alternative ways of being assessed.
> > Invariably their self-esteem builds to the point where they can overcome
> >
> > their test anxiety. They have demonstrated to themselves as much as to
> > the teacher that they can understand the concepts and demonstrate their
> > competence.
> >
> >     The benefits of using observations as an assessment tool to help
> > students understand when they have mastered course material are
> > numerous. This approach reduces anxiety markedly, raises students' self
> > esteem, puts them in control of their own destiny and emphasizes that
> > they are responsible for their own learning The results they obtain are
> > based upon their efforts, not the teacher's.